Anger at ‘churlish' Town Hall memo accusing cleared Brian
Ex-planning chief vindicated after two years, only for accusations to fly again
CAMDEN'S new legal chief and her press aides have come under fire for circulating a memo insisting that officials were right to report the Town Hall's former planning chairman to the Standards Board - even though he was vindicated last week.
Labour councillor Brian Woodrow was cleared of bringing the council into disrepute by the Adjudication Panel for England last Wednesday.
He was exonerated of wrong doing when he spoke to a journalist about his concerns for the planned revamp of the King's Cross railway lands.
The panel did find a breach concerning phone calls that Cllr Woodrow made to English Heritage about the £2 billion redevelopment - but considered the issue so "low level" that no punishment was required.
Labour colleague Councillor Julian Fulbrook said the one breach amounted to ‘de minimis non curat lex' - a legal term which translates as ‘The law doesn't deal with trifles', effectively too trivial to bother with.
Officers appear to hold a different opinion. Legal chief Melanie Field, the council's acting head of law since the exit of borough solicitor Alison Lowton last month, circulated a memo to all councillors on Thursday defending the council's actions and reminding them that Cllr Woodrow had been found guilty of one charge.
A similar statement was handed to journalists late on Wednesday evening by the press office. It said: "The council took the difficult, very carefully considered and appropriate action to report concerns about the conduct of the former Chair of the Development Control Committee in relation to his role in the decision making process for the King's Cross Development to the Standards Board."
The panel heard at a tribunal hearing that relations had broken down between officers and councillors.
The statement circulated by Ms Field and the press office said: "The council strongly refutes the allegations made during the hearing by Cllr Woodrow about council staff.
The council has concerns about the fact that the hearing process does not allow any right of reply to these accusations."
The statement triggered an almost immediate response by angry councillors. One email - seen by the New Journal - sent by Cllr Fulbrook to Ms Field said: "Having regard to the agony that Councillor Woodrow has been put through, and the actual resulting decision that, presumably on the basis of de minimis non curat lex, there was no need to take any further action of any kind on this residual breach when all the very serious charges had been thrown out, I would regard the council's response as churlish in the extreme."
Cllr Woodrow was picked up for phoning English Heritage's Patrick Pugh, a former Camden employee.
Cllr Fulbrook told Ms Field: "If councillors are not able to have a private conversation with ex-council staff, without all of this resulting nonsense, there will be a danger that we may have to have an embargo on speaking to existing council staff too."
Other councillors from all political parties are believed to have made similar objections. Cllr Woodrow spent last week recovering from a two-year investigation into his actions and a three day panel hearing at which he spent eight hours answering questions.
Speaking for the first time since the verdict, he said: "I welcome the Tribunal's decision that I had not brought the council into disrepute in any way. Only in one instance did they find that I had marginally breached the Code, "at the low end" and whilst defending the public interest.
"I am pleased that after so long and so much stress, I have been so fully vindicated. My grateful thanks to the many friends, colleagues and constituents who have supported me throughout this long ordeal and at the hearings."